A local developer got the green light on Monday for a project that will put hundreds of apartments, including some rent-limited units, at the edge of the River North district in the Cole neighborhood.
Buildings on the site will be allowed to rise up to five floors, but its eastern side will be only three stories. A rezoning for the site was approved in a 10-0 council vote. Councilman Albus Brooks abstained, while council members Robin Kniech and Debbie Ortega were absent.
The plan is to build a 30,000-square-foot grocery store and more than 200 apartments. About 10 percent of the units would be designated for people making 60 percent of the area median income, or $49,000 for a family of three, the developers say.
That exceeds city requirements on the land, which is near the 38th and Blake transit station. The extra affordability won’t be legally required by the rezoning, but it will be cemented in a later agreement with the Office of Economic Development, according to developer Andrew Feinstein.
“Not only are we offering to do more units, we’re offering to do it at a lower AMI,” said Feinstein, referring to the income limit for residents.
The site is mostly between 37th Avenue, 36th Avenue, Downing Street and Marion Street.
The plan will eliminate the “Lawrence Swoop,” a curving section of Lawrence Street that cuts across the properties. Instead, drivers will use the existing street grid. The developer bought that section of the road from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“We’re going to wrap this entire site with a substantial tree lawn, with three times as many trees as are already there, and we’re hoping to have a 17-foot-wide tree lawn on Marion,” Feinstein said.
The developers also are paying to convert Marion and Downing streets from one-way to two-way along the project’s edges, which may slow traffic speeds and improve pedestrian safety.
The Cole Neighborhood Association supports the plan, in part because the developers signed a memorandum about their intent to provide affordable housing, a grocery store and better sidewalks. The project also has support from the adjacent Curtis Park Neighbors and the River North Art District, which overlays the area.
The project is about a half-mile from the new Natural Grocers on Brighton Boulevard and just north of the Downing Supermarket. Mayoral candidate Lisa Calderón has suggested that the city should do more for those existing businesses.
Councilman Rafael Espinoza asked why it took so long. “The city could have helped address this problem sooner,” he said, pointing out that the “food desert” is only changing as gentrification arrives.
But Councilman Brooks said it wasn’t so simple. “Since Day One that I got into office, we’ve been working on grocery stores in our community,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much money we as a government put into grocery stores, it’s their decision to come into a neighborhood.”
The developers haven’t named a grocery store for the new development. Brooks initiated the zoning and helped to coordinate the project but isn’t financially involved. The project’s being run by EXDO Properties, Elevation Development Group and Kentro Group.
Written by Andrew Kenney